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My First World Ranking

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jason
Collegiate recruits practicing the swim exit on Friday before the race (photo: Erik Pedersen).
About a week and a half ago now I made my season debut at the Clermont ITU Pan American Cup in Florida. I turned pro last October and did just one ITU race in 2011, making Clermont the beginning of my first professional season. I had worked hard all winter, especially in the pool, in anticipation of this race. I knew I was prepared, but was still a bit apprehensive going into it.

Would all the early mornings and yards in the pool pay off? (I would say "countless yards," but the truth is I can account for each and every yard I swam in the last few months... training log addict? Perhaps.) What if I was still minutes down to the leaders out of the water, like I was in Myrtle Beach in October? All that time and commitment would feel like a waste. And what about the bike and run? In addition to all the swimming, I have coaching and graduate school commitments as well. There isn't much time left over for the other two — certainly not as much as I would like.

All of this was really coming to a head after I had done my swim warm up and I was standing on the white, sandy beach next to my competitors. I saw Barb Lindquist and we briefly chatted about the swim start. Talking about the madness that was to likely ensue in the shallow waters of Lake Louisa didn't calm my nerves any. But just before I took off to line up for the start, she said, "Jason, have fun out there." A light switched on. I'm out here to have fun! From that point on the glass was half full and I was ready to go.

When the starter's horn sounded, everyone dove into the "woman's thigh" depth water, as Dustin McClarty described it in the pro meeting the day before. Most began with dolphin dives, some ran a few strides; others stuck with the ole front crawl. I chose to dolphin dive for a while and was happy to see that, even 30" into the race I still had a clear sight of the buoy with no one in front. As the water got a bit deeper, we all began swimming. Now I was in the thick of things, with arms and legs flailing all around me. This continued around both buoys and as we headed back for home. It was a little exhausting dealing with so much contact in the water, but I was motivated knowing that if there were so many people around me, I must be swimming in a pack!

jason
Leading the chase pack (photo: Erik Pedersen).
150-200 meters out people went back to their best combo of dolphin dive/swim/run. My heart rate was through the roof! I felt like I was finishing up the last 400 meters of a cross country race with that uncomfortable feeling you get in your stomach when that lactic acid is really pumping. When I finally hit the beach, there was a small gap ahead and I knew if I didn't close that up before T1 Barb would really let me have it. I did my best Usain Bolt and closed the gap before T1, put on my helmet and took off with my bike. (No 15" helmet penalty this time!)

Onto the bike I hammered away on top of my shoes. I passed a few guys right away that were still heaving and hoeing from the swim exit and found two guys to sit on to get my feet in my shoes. Once they were in, I attacked again and continued to move up the road. Eventually, a lead pack of about 22 or 23 guys formed with a 30" gap to my group of 12. Before the race I talked with my coach Ian Murray about being less aggressive on the bike. I did a good job of sharing the lead with three or four other riders, but I was still itching to get in a breakaway and catch the lead pack. After a couple laps I heeded Ian's advice, and just concentrated on taking good, strong pulls and staying in the top-4 of the bunch.

jason
Heading to the finish (photo: Erik Pedersen).
Coming into T2 I did a much better job of holding my position and not letting all the guys that just sat in the whole ride pass me. Once again I had a fairly smooth transition and was onto the run. In my last few races, I have had issues with my hamstring cramping, so this time I started out a bit more conservatively. Still, I found myself running through the group I came off the bike with. Unfortunately, there was a rather large gap between me and the next guys, and it took until 1500m left in the run to begin to pass guys from the lead pack. With a little over 1 km remaining I was in 21st place. I knew top-20 score ITU points, so I looked up the road and saw a few bodies. I threw in a little surge and was able to pass three guys. Great, I'm in 18th! There was one more just up the road, Mathew Sharp of the Great Britain, the 2011 U23 World Champion. I thought he would put up a good fight, so I surged hard again. To my surprise, he didn't respond and I was able to cruise in the last 50m in 17th place.

I was thrilled to earn my first ITU points which puts me on the world ITU points list. You are reading the blog of the world's 335th ranked ITU triathlete.  I will chisel away at that number as the season goes in hopes of adding a bit more street cred to my writing. Think of all the Twitter followers I will have if I'm ranked in the top-200! My next chance to do that will be in June and the Dallas ITU Pan American Cup. Until then, a lot more swimming, biking and running, and a little more writing.

P.S. Happy Pi Day to all the math and engineering nerds!

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